Friday, September 10, 2010

Extreme camping in the backyard

As you may have read in my previous columns, I used to (as in past tense) be an active outdoorsman — camping, backpacking and fishing.
However, in the past few years I have found a number of excellent excuses to avoid such an exercise in physical discomfort — such as, too tired, too busy, too hot, too cold, my kids are too young, I'm too old, etc. In an effort to regain my sense of adventure and share the experience of the outdoors with my 4-year-old son, I decided to take him camping.
For any of you who have made a foray into the wild outdoors, you know the amount of preparation that goes into the trip. Now, add a 4-year-old into your planning and things get interesting. Considering this was his first experience sleeping outside, it seemed wise to take our first trip into the wild outdoors to the backyard. It's not exactly Yellowstone, but there is this gang of squirrels that has a real nasty attitude that creates a unique sense of adventure and it is closer to home in case he gets “homesick.”
As I dusted off and started to set up our “new” tent from the garage (see previous column for that reference), I sent my son to his room to grab some “supplies” to take on our adventure. As you wilderness-savvy individuals know, the first rule in pitching a tent is to find a flat piece of land. This does not exist in my yard (our tent location would make a better slide than sleeping quarters). I knew this was going to make for an additional level of discomfort, but still no reason to kill a child's spirit of adventure (my back may argue this point, but my brain won the argument).
As I finished setting up our tent and started working on our campfire (for the traditional camping delicacy of S'mores) my son came out with his backpack full of his “supplies” from his room. His pack weighed nearly as much as he did.
When we opened his pack to see what “supplies” he was bringing to the campsite, I was immediately impressed by the fact that he grabbed a flashlight for both of us. As we dug deeper into the pack, he poured out approximately 20 Hot Wheels. When I asked him why he brought the Hot Wheels, he simply said, “We need something to play with Daddy.” Of course.
After a full evening of playing and talking, the young boy fell sound asleep, visions of our next adventure floating through his pleasant dreams. I, on the other hand, struggled to get comfortable. One rock, no matter where I moved, seemed on a mission to break my spine (making it difficult to stand up straight the next day). By morning, we had lost the battle against gravity. The hillside tent placement, all of our “supplies” and the two people inside the tent were crammed against the bottom of the tent.
Despite the sliding, the jabbing pain in my spine and the lack of sleep, once we were settled into our tent next to our fire with bellies full of marshmallows under a cloudless sky, my son turned to me and said, “Isn't this great Daddy? We're camping!” Yes it is buddy, yes it is.
Ultimately, camping with my son was one of the highlights of my summer and while camping in the backyard is not “extreme” adventure, it is a small step toward greater adventures.
As far as my son is concerned, when my wife asked him if he had fun, he said, “I want to go camping for nap time. I love camping so much I want to go every day.” Oh boy, my back is already hurting again.

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